Category Archives: Reclaim Your Life

One Change to My New Writing Habit

CreativeCommons. Copyright Steve DePolo.

CreativeCommons. Copyright Steve DePolo.

Last week I committed to blog five days a week. For the following 48 hours, it seemed like everywhere I turned I was met with advice and messages on the importance of action and daily habits. Like this one from John Rohn:

“Success is nothing more than a few disciplines practiced every day.” 

And this short video posted by a member of my private Reclaim Your Dreams community on finishing here:

Finished Not Perfect

And this on the side benefits of writing daily from Life Hack:

10 Reasons You Should Write Something Each Day

 I found it more difficult to write today (Monday) after taking the weekend off…and even missed writing on Saturday and Sunday. Interesting, that once I started, more ideas for future posts started to flow. (Though I did journal but not anything I am ready to post yet.)  

Given this, I have decided to expand my writing habit from five days a week to daily.

Even if I only post an inspirational quote or photo and thought of the day, my sense is it will help with the momentum and discipline habit of it all.

Still in the honeymoon phase according to this piece on habit formation; I hope you will join me by subscribing to my list below as I continue to focus on taking action on what matters most to me. It’s absurdly obvious, but without action, there is no progress.

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When Overthinking Destroys Your Dreams

I am a great believer in signs, but I’ve learned that we increase the likelihood of spotting them when we’re moving down a path, not waiting but expecting. -Paul Boynton

Creative Commons. Copyright Nate and Tilly Ritter.

Creative Commons. Copyright Nate and Tilly Ritter.

During a meeting on an empowerment program that I am piloting this fall (based on the work of the What’s Your Brave project), our conversation turned to the dreams of the adults in the
room. As often happens, one of the grown-ups sheepishly offered that they are still figuring it all out.

To which, I said:

Thank God!

Me too!! Awesome!

This means you and I are still growing and discerning how to achieve meaningful work and life and how we can best impact to make this world a better place. This is so alive and the alternative is to be a spectator in your own life.

Here’s where most of us go wrong.

When my five siblings and I were growing up, one of my mother’s favorite mantras in exasperation was:

You think too much.

As the ultimate overanalyzer, I was indignant that she would minimize the importance of considering issues from all vantage points.

But my mother was right. Many of us want to analyze and think our way into our dreams and goals. Reflection and planning will save you time, heartache and money, but it will only take you so far.

It’s embarrassingly obvious, but without action, you won’t progress. Action builds momentum. Overthinking destroys it.  

Listen to my mother (who is now in her 80’s)! You can’t think your way into clarity and progress on your dream; you grow into it through action.

Take 5

There is no actual risk in taking one small action toward your dream today. Not sure where to start? Do the thing that is at the core of your boldest dreams. Want to be a writer? Write (and read) every day. Painter. Paint. That’s where the magic will happen.

 

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Sometimes the Solution is Easy

The most effective way to do it, is to do it. – Amelia Earhart

It’s September and for me that means reflecting on what I have achieved thus far and what I want to accomplish in the next year. Recently, I was complaining  sharing with a friend about my lack of time for writing in the midst of growing a new company and family. Life is busy, incredibly so for those of us (which is most of us) juggling work and family and kids’ commitments…and then there’s sleep.

But I stopped myself because sometimes the solution is easy, as is the case here. And so I am taking Amelia’s advice and choosing the most effective way to do it by doing it. For this year (Wait! What?! That’s a lot of public practicing.), I will be blogging five days a week on creating meaningful work and life in the ‘burbs – keeping it real and sharing my own personal experiences on building a purpose-filled business. Asking big questions, providing research-based practical tips and case studies, inspiration, and working hard to focus on what matters most.

Take 5

How about you? Is there a goal or a dream that you don’t think you have time for? I hope you will join me in taking Amelia’s advice and do it. Start by subscribing using the link below.

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What to Follow When in Search of Your Purpose

Untitled designA couple of weekends ago, my daughter and I took a very casual peek at a couple of colleges. As cliché as it sounds, it is such an exciting time of possibility, when there is literally a world of opportunity waiting for her. Being a witness and supporter in the process is especially poignant and joy-filled for me given my early life circumstances.

We checked in at a shady three-star hotel and drove to the local 99 restaurant for dinner, near the school that we planned to visit the next day. The walls of the 99 had photos of elite college sports teams and other college alum from decades past to present. The host, a man probably in his late twenties, greeted us, 

“How are you?”

“Great and you?”

“Awesome,” he said. “Living the dream,” he said.

“Just living the dream,” he repeated as he whisked passed us and one of the black and white college photos.

I wondered how many times he had said it before. To how many moms and dads with their high school students visiting from out of town.

“This way, please.”

Everyday pleasantries returned.

Maybe he loves his work and was just having a bad day or he hates his jobs but is funding his real work with its paycheck… or maybe this is his second job, supporting a family, working hard to make ends meet…or maybe the heaviness of his dreams unrealized particularly weighed on him in that moment. I have my theories (and sometimes think I am a mind reader), but what’s true and real is that I will never know for sure.

Whether imagined or not, the thought of his unleashed potential dying a little bit everyday broke my heart. Broke. My. Heart.

Looking for your calling? What breaks your heart? Follow that. Find a way to change that.

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10 Ways to Take Up Space in Your Busy Life

If you don’t choose how you spend your time, someone else will spend it for you. -Author Unknown

Female feet closeup of woman standing at the sandy beach next to the shell heart

I was chatting with a friend recently who shared that she never had time to pursue her art, bemoaning her endless to-do list and all the obligations pulling at her.

I think most of us have experienced her frustration. Life, after all, is busy. Often incredibly so. Daily work, family, volunteering and other commitments can make days and (gulp) years pass quickly, leaving little time for long-dormant personal passions and dreams. This is a familiar mantra for my peers: women with kids/teens still at home and often also running a business or working in a corporate setting. This was different though. My friend’s struggle gave me significant pause because she was in her late 60’s and has been an empty nester for quite some time. Wow…the busyness really never ends, was my immediate response.

What she shared, reminded me (again) how easy it is to be lulled into waiting for the elusive right time to pursue our boldest desires or simply nurture ourselves. And that the truth is that the only perfect life phase for living fully into who we are starts today. If you, like my friend, are feeling squeezed out of your own life, here are some micro-habits to get you started on a path of intentionally taking up space and reclaiming your life:

  1. Express gratitude for one way you take up space today. It doesn’t matter how big or small it seems; identify one way that you express who you are in your life right now.
  2. Make time for brief moments of solitude. Even just a few minutes during the day can help you connect to yourself rather than being caught up in outside forces.
  3. Ask the Big Questions. Begin consciously considering what you want your life to be about, what your passions are, and what you would regret not pursuing. The answers to these questions should drive how you spend your time.
  4. Quit. If you are too busy to pursue what is most meaningful to you (or to take the time to figure out what that is), something has got to go. Evaluate your current optional commitments; begin by cutting out those that drain you.
  5. Create art. Buy a small journal or notebook just for self-expression. It will be one of the best purchases you will ever make. Spend even one minute a day writing or drawing a picture. No directions required.
  6. Make a Rote Response Card. Sometimes we end up compromising who we are because it is hard to say no. Write down on a small card your response to requests for your time or an opinion you are not prepared to give. Doesn’t have to be eloquent—“Huh, I’ll have to think about that and let you know” works.
  7. Initiate juicy, meaningful conversations in unlikely places. Shake things up…be determined to bring big ideas or something you are passionate about into sidelines conversation or while waiting in line at Starbucks. This is life-changing and I guarantee you will feel empowered and see humans differently when you do this regularly.
  8. Re-connect to a childhood passion. Think about what you loved to do as a kid as it can be a clue to your truest expressions.
  9. Express your uniqueness daily. Create a daily practice of doing or saying something that expresses you without regard to its popularity or commonality. It can be an expression of a core value, as simple as a wardrobe choice, or declining a social engagement that will leave you feeling drained.
  10. Make time to do absolutely nothing. Schedule time with no agenda other than to do whatever you want in that moment.

Take 5

Taking up space is meant to be fun and freeing not a burdensome addition to your to-do list. Start by choosing one of the ideas above or try this favorite of mine:

Give yourself room to play. Schedule a date with yourself to do something outside of your normal routine that expresses who you are or simply makes you feel a little giddy. Take photos in the city; Pretend you’re a screenwriter and spend the morning jotting down the characters in your movie; Grab a sketchbook and make a graffiti design; Research an EarthWatch expedition; Go for a run in a strange town…or you name it.  

xo Paula


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Why Hillary is in My Dreams

You can be what you can see. -adapted from Marian Wright-Edelman quote
shutterstock_206126209

I don’t often have vivid dreams, but this one felt so real that it stays with me two weeks later.

In the dream I was attending a business event in a swanky hotel’s  ballroom, similar to ones I have been in many times. I was sitting in one of many rows of chairs set up for a workshop due to begin soon.

As I was waiting for the session to start, I noticed that the hotel staff was busy setting up chairs for a second event on the other side of the ballroom. I knew immediately that Hillary Clinton was coming to speak. I also knew that although my event would be fine (and ordinary and perhaps  flat) that I was called to the other side of the room where the excitement was palpable.

Without hesitation, I moved over to the other side of the room.

(Too typical I know), but I looked down and realized that I still had my pajamas on and immediately bolted home to get dressed.

After being temporarily distracted at home, I hurried back to the event, worried that I was too late, that I had missed the window of opportunity, and then looked down seeing that I was now only half prepared (as I was still wearing my pajama pants!)

But it was too late to return home and finish getting ready.

And with that I ran back to the Hillary event, snagging a front row seat and founded myself surrounded by several other women, ranging in age from twenties to seventies and beyond. As we waited for HRC to take the podium, I huddled close to these other women; our emotions palpable as we shared why we were there. Hillary Clinton did arrive in the end and it was just as spectacular as I imagined.

Politics aside, the symbolism of this dream is almost absurdly personal as I have been struggling with whether or not I should respond to a particular calling.

Do I stay where I am (the fine, but ordinary and flat side of the room)? Or do I take it up a level, where there is excitement, but risk? Can I do this? Am I ready (No. Definitely not, but perhaps, half ready. See pjs). And the most sobering question of all… Is it too late? 

When I awoke, I was inspired and clear-headed. After her defeat in 2008, like many, I assumed that Hillary Clinton’s window of opportunity to become the first female president had closed and now, here we are in 2016, it is once again a possibility as she has just made history as the first woman to be nominated for President of a major political party.

I know how HRC’s historic rise impacts my daughter and son and a generation of girls and boys across the United States who are watching a 240 year barrier lifted. (You can be what you can see.)

But, what moves me just as much, is that I also see the significance for a generation of women and men in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond. Women, who for a variety of societal and personal reasons, started toward a bold dream late or perhaps are ready for a new vision and calling.

No matter your political views, I hope that Hillary’s nomination serves as a powerful reminder, that despite defeat and obstacles and yes, age, that it is not too late to pursue your dream, to answer a bold calling…

That all of us, can do and be whatever we want starting today even if we begin only half ready with our pajama pants on. 

Do it. Take the risk. Began today. I sure plan to.

xo Paula

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When Your Potential Ends

Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. -Nido Qubein*

I am conducting research as part of my work on a personal development program for young adults. In one of the books, I am reading (more precisely listening to on Audible) the author provides insight into the environment and characteristics that determine success in school and life. To illustrate the weaknesses of one model, he shares a story about a teen who attended a NYC charter high school. The student, Tony, did quite well academically in the highly-structured environment of the charter school and was accepted to a four-year university.

But when he started college, Tony floundered and after a couple of tries, eventually dropped out for good. Using Tony’s story, the author highlighted what was missing from this particular charter school and advocating for a formula that emphasizes traits like grit rather than a traditional model focused almost exclusively on intellectual/academic success.

During his research, the author interviewed and quotes Tony, now in his late 20’s and working at an AT&T call center. With resignation, Tony sighs,

“I really had a lot of potential.”

…and then not missing a beat the author continues with his growth mindset hypothesis.

And that’s when my next door neighbors may have heard my rant. 

Wait! What do you mean had? Had?

Tony is 28 years old; his dreams and the possibilities for his life are not in the past tense. Given the difficult circumstances of his early years, he has done extraordinarily well. But still he has the potential to do much, much more if he chooses.

Tony doesn’t need to accept his current circumstances as fate because of his college/teenage struggles no matter his history, but particularly keeping in mind that he was likely still recovering from trauma.

How ironic that a text that is focused heavily on the growth mindset (the malleability of intelligence and success) implies that potential has an expiration date?

There are countless famous, historic and everyday examples of people hitting their stride in every decade of life, literally until 100 years old.

Tony’s potential ends when he decides it does. And so doesn’t yours.


Take 5: 

Your potential ends when you decide it does. Take two minutes and consider what you have the potential for (maybe it comes in the form of regret or a tinge of if only) by brainstorming answers to this question:

What would you do today if money, time, or the opinions of others were irrelevant? 

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*source for quote: brainyquotes.com

Being the Mama That You Really Are

uniquemama1It’s not hyperbole to admit that I am more comfortable giving a speech in front of hundreds of people, than I am putting my daughter’s hair in a bun for her annual dance recital. This year I was rescued by a smart mom armed with her super-weapons, a hairagami, a sense of humor, and just the right dose of sarcasm (For those that are uninitiated, hairagami is a brilliant invention and has saved countless hours of needless mother-daughter angst – look it up).

Maybe it’s because my daughter is now officially a teenager. Or that I still feel a little bad that she taught me how to make a French braid. Whatever the reason, I have become even more reflective, than my normally introspective self, about my experience of motherhood. So it is not that surprising I have been thinking a lot about my own mom’s mothering.

Domestic Diva

My mother never attempted the hair bun, but she did bake a near perfect tollhouse cookie. In the working class city neighborhood that I grew up in, that made her a domestic diva. It was pre-Martha Stewart, after all. As a young child, I adored this about my mother. Primarily because it gave me a ton of playmate power – a request for her to whip up a batch was enough to keep friends at my house as long as I wanted them there.

The cookies were great leverage, but like many adults turned parents, what I find amazing about my mom is the stuff I took for granted growing up.

The fact that at six years old, I was convinced that spinach and rice was the best meal ev-er, is no small feat.  And despite a general lack of supervision, the way of life back in the day, my mother still managed to have six kids pretty clean, always on time for school, and perfectly coiffed for Easter photos.

When I was in kindergarten, she spent hours clicking away at super-lightning speed on her  typewriter addressing envelopes. I missed her when she left by taxi or bus weekly lugging all those boxes of envelopes to make a little bit of money that she could call her own. The woman’s movement never hit our neighborhood, so in retrospect I see how gutsy and resourceful she was.

Today it takes my breath away that she was and remains such a loyal, non-judgmental friend, to those viewed outside the status quo.

Everyday acts of self-expression

Best of all, I am all out crazy in love with my mom’s everyday acts of self-expression that were simply mortifying as a kid,  bursting through her otherwise quiet, normal persona.  Today I find it sheer perfection that she had five different hair colors in the span of a few years (counting the wig); and that the only make up she wore was fire-engine red or fuchsia pink lipstick. When I was a teenager, we moved into an apartment with black and white striped wall paper.  As if this wasn’t embarrassing enough, she unabashedly purchased a retro sofa with mega blue and chartreuse flowers. Now, I revel in how despite a lack of options and painful circumstances, she still found ways to express her color to the world.

Decoupage-driven

In contrast, I prided myself on my idiosyncratic avoidance of decoupage, fancy hairdo’s, and domesticity in general. I could bring home the bacon and was pretty good at cooking it up in a pan when I felt like it and as long as my husband cooked sometimes too. But optional domestic tasks were not my thing.

Once my daughter was born, in between general exhaustion and running a business, I jumped into craft-making wholeheartedly though. I did this despite everything I had ever espoused because somewhere lodged deep in my psyche, there was a formula to being an incredible mom. And that formula included craft making.  I have the painstaking alphabet sampler to prove it with hand-sewn items for each letter  – including may I say without sounding too boastful, a violin with strings and a bow.  Public praise and adoration replaced by uncontrollable laughter from the friends who have known me for years.

Embracing the Mama that You Are

Two kids and 13 years later, my sister or a friend helps us if a sewing task comes up. My own crafting just couldn’t be sustained. Most simply, because it wasn’t me.  Instead, I focus on embracing the mom that I really am. If you want to share your wildest dreams aloud to someone who won’t call you crazy, I’m in! Edit your paper. Make you a green smoothie. I’m the one for you.  Talk about what life is like for most women and girls in the world and what we can do about it. And spend hours looking at your photos, or buy you gold mining gear, and enjoy every minute. Admire every art project and math paper you ever did, yup (that’s what all those piles are in my office).

A part of me does secretly still wish that I was the go-to mom for the hair-do.  It’s not that I want to be the perfect mom; I don’t think any of us really want that deep down.

Most of the mothers I know just want their daughters and sons to know, that they are deeply, vulnerably forever and inexpressibly in love with them.  That we would do anything to protect them. Even when we sound annoyed.  That’s what the buns and alphabet samplers and tollhouse cookies and coaching and ambitions and even – yikes – the pressure is really all about.

Recently, I was at a wellness day with my daughter and her entire middle school.  At the end, they had former addicts share their experiences in the hope of deterring kids from heading down the wrong path. One young man’s story was particularly poignant and I was moved to tears (literally).  Geez, I wasn’t sobbing or anything, but one of my daughter’s friends noticed telling her, “your mom is crying.”  (Try saying that aloud with the tone of a 13 year old) You can imagine how well that went over.

I am hoping that one day she will embrace that story just like I embrace my mom’s colorful sofa.

Either way in the end, the most beautiful gift I can give my daughter and son is to embrace who they  really are as human beings and to teach them to let that shine unapologetically in the world.

I can tell my daughter to ignore what’s in the movies or what she hears on the street about what it means to be  a girl and a mama (if she so chooses). And ditto for my son – he doesn’t have to fit into the cookie-cutter prescriptions he sees for what manhood and dad-hood look like either. Their job is not to lean in or lean out… it’s simply to be their divinely-made selves, the one in seven billion that they are naturally.

I gave up regret several years ago, but if I could change one thing about my mothering, I wish I had started embracing that mama that I am naturally earlier for my children’s sake and my own.

So whatever you are doing this mother’s day, embrace the strange, flawed, unique mama that you really are.


Paula Grieco is an Entrepreneur, Writer, and Coach. She is the author of Take 5 for Your Dreams and Reclaim Your Dreams: A Workbook for Busy Women.


Give yourself and your daughter the gift of dreaming big this Mother’s Day:

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When is the last time you set aside time to reflect on what you want your life to be about? Reclaim Your Dreams provides you with the tools and a simple, elegant process to intentionally explore, identify, and take action on your boldest goals and desires using a real-life, practical approach that is doable within your busy life. It was developed from research and built upon the success of the Reclaim Your Dreams workshop series for busy women. Through reflective, fun, and approachable Take 5 (5-15 minute) questions and exercises, you may {re}discover several dreams or become clear on one specific goal that you are ready to claim. By the end of the workbook, you will choose and take action on a meaningful dream.
41j2SwxwavLMade especially for tween and teen girls, Take 5 for Your Dreamsis an engaging book that provides more than 90 five-minute daily exercises designed to inspire girls to be who they really are, think about their future, and how they can get there. Packed with beautiful photos, quotes, mini-essays, and resources, it’s a simple and elegant solution meant to break big dreams into easy, doable daily actions.

 

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One Reason You Don’t Have Clarity on Your Goals

 

CreativeCommons: BRTeaA firm has been helping me with a new product that I am working on. They are incredible in many ways…but completion is taking much longer than expected. Much, much longer. When they shot a few product photos for me, I realized what the problem was.

They never asked me what I wanted. 

Rather than taking the time (in this case just a few minutes) to ask me a few questions to understand what I needed and wanted, they did what was standard..defaulted to what they usually do.

Hmmmm…. Sounds familiar. I don’t know about you, but I still do this sometimes in my own life. Although understanding what you or I want our lives to be about is a bit more complicated than a photo shoot, the concept is the same. Often we go through our days without taking the time to step back and ask ourselves the big questions.

People – especially busy people – don’t have clarity on their life direction because they haven’t taken the time to ask themselves what matters most, what they really want their life to be about, and then made decisions based on that.

The moral of the story, if you want clarity about your dreams, start by taking the time to intentionally asking yourself what YOU really want. Not what is expected of you or others think you should do or is appropriate for your age or prestigious or easy…but what you really want. And then, act accordingly.


Take 5

If you don’t have clarity on your dreams, here’s a good place to start. Today, take a few minutes to brainstorm a list of what really matters to you….people, issues, causes, and values. Let me know what you came up with in the comments.


If you want an approachable way to ask yourself the big questions, here is a self-reflection road map to help you intentionally reclaim your dreams (and your life), check out the Reclaim Your Dreams Workbook for Busy Women available on Amazon.

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Fitting Friendships into Your Busy Entrepreneurial Life

The Reclaim Your Life Series for Busy Entrepreneurs
This is the next of a new weekly series. At the end of each post, look for the 
Take 5 for one easy way to infuse more wellness into your busy life. 


By Paula Grieco

Being an entrepreneur can be lonely. …Especially if you are bootstrapping your business and haven’t quite reached that first traction point.

But hard choices have to be made because an entrepreneur’s two big resources – time and money – are extremely limited.  For most business owners, family, business, (and walking the dog) come first, leaving little time for anything else. (Though hopefully because of this series, your own health and wellness, also makes the top three. Cue #reclaimyourlife )

If you have big plans for your business, something has gotta give. And what often falls to the bottom of the list is making time for business and personal friendships.

Even if you lean toward introversion, you know what a bad idea too much alone time is.

Research shows that a business owner’s likelihood of success increases significantly when surrounded with personal support and allies.

We don’t need to read the studies to know this; just ask any biz owner that has spent too many days working diligently at their computer in their sweats…and started to go to that dark place. (I am sharing from a friend’s experience;-)

Balance is overrated, but spending time in relationships that are mutually enriching is about more than balance – try sanity, survival, and yes – success.

Street translation: Our girlfriends are everything. And big ideas come to us and deals get done over a glass of wine or coffee.

Whether your dance card is already overflowing with best buds or you crave more meaningful friendships, while you are building your business…here are some ideas to infuse authentic connections into your regular routine:

  1. Follow your authenticity. Many of the woman that I work with share that they felt guarded and were unable to be authentic in their former corporate life and that took a tremendous toll of their well-being. I know that was true for me. Don’t replicate that in your own business though.  Forget “she would be a good person to know”. Instead, reach out to people (those you know and don’t know but admire) based on sincere respect and interest in the person’s work and/or fondness for them personally.
  2. Get personal. Make your business relationships – those with vendors, customers, and advisors – personal. That doesn’t mean hanging out on the weekends with a customer necessarily, but it means working with people that you like, can trust, and that you can be yourself with.
  3. Schedule a soul dates during working hours once a month. If this seems like a luxury to you, we need to talk. Make a list of five people you adore and also adore you. Now email the one that bubbles to the top of the list and schedule a date. Talk biz or kids or the meaning of life; whatever, you like best. I promise you will come up with a solution to a big problem, the next paragraph in your book, or a new business idea at lunch or during the commute to and from your soul meeting. If you don’t have a list of five people because you have been heads down growing your business for a long time, I get it. Start by looking for an opportunity to get to know someone a little better by going beyond, “how’s the weather”.
  4. Use technology to let people know you care. I send texts with little love emojis, etc. to my kiddos almost daily. Why not do the same with business connections and friends? A quick FB message or text with some personal love and encouragement added can make your day and someone else’s.
  5. Don’t be relentless. When it comes to making human connections including professional relationships, I don’t push it.  My general rule is to reach out once, maybe twice as the email struggle is real. If I don’t hear anything, I let it go.

We know girlfriends make our life better, but they will also make your business thrive and make you healthier too.


Take 5

Even though I included five ideas in this post, I know that lists like this can feel burdensome on an already overloaded schedule. So start with this: for the next 3 days send a love text to a different friend or colleague. Continue once a week. You will enrich your own life, may give someone who has been chained to their desk an added boost and who knows…create and cement a new BFF.


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Paula is an Empowerment Entrepreneur and Writer. She works with individuals of all ages and businesses to help them intentional design and achieve a life that reflects who they are and what matters to them. Her flagship program, Reclaim Your Dreams for Busy Women, is offered to individuals, in group workshops, and soon to be online. See Program and Coaching Offerings for information on all of our services. She has published two books Take 5 for Your Dreams for Teen Girls and Reclaim Your Dreams for Busy Women as well as an e-guide Body Brave. Reach her at paula@paulagrieco.com. She’d love to hear from you.

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